The foreign correspondent is the new dodo

Foreign correspondents for American newspapers have become a dying breed, with their number sliding repeatedly in recent years. Jack Welch doesn't even own the Globe yet, but yesterday, management brought the axe down on all of its foreign bureaus.

This bad news comes on the heels of a report written by The Christian Science Monitor's Jill Carroll, best known for being kidnapped in Iraq and held for 80 days. Carroll found that in 2000, American newspapers employed 282 foreign correspondents. Following 9/11, that number went up slightly, to 304. Then, newspapers like the  Baltimore Sun and New York's Newsday (both owned by the Tribune) shut down overseas bureaus. So in 2006, that number fell by more than 20 percent to only 249. Today, with the Globe's announcement, that makes roughly 239. By my calculations, that means that there is only one foreign correspondent per 1.3 million people in the United States.

Paradoxically, Carroll finds that people who are interested in original, international news tend to be highly-educated with greater incomes, making them attractive to advertisers. (The Wall Street Journal seems to get it—nearly half of U.S. newspapers' foreign correspondents work there.) Why does this matter? Carroll concludes with a plea:

As a world power, we have a moral obligation to use our influence responsibly and  thoughtfully. [...] The media is an important part in making that happen. The quality of the information provided by the news media determins to a large extent the quality of the national debate and resulting policies. Having many sources of good quality, in-depth, insightful, well-informed foreign reporting is essential to keep the national debate vigorous and churning.


Davos Diary, Day 1.5: Grounded


So, globalization is harder than we thought, after all. I write this entry from Seat 6B on United flight 936 to Zurich. Unfortunately, at the moment the plane is stranded on the tarmac at Frankfurt. Apparently, a higher power decided to join this year's Davos festivities, manifested today by snow storms that shut down Zurich airport just as the glitterati of business and government were to have arrived en masse. While some arrived yesterday, major groups of big shots from around the world were left, if my flight is any indication, pleading with flight attendants for crackers to sustain multi-hour delays at European airports. For us, on this flight from Washington, the glitch did not hold us back from schmoozing. We're having a mini-Davos in the aisles, featuring the likes of the The New York Times's Tom Friedman, FOREIGN POLICY's own Moisés Naím, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, Andean Development Corporation head Enrique García, U.S. Representative Barney Frank (sitting next to a slumbering former Nigerian Finance Minister), former FDA boss Mark McClellan, former U.S. Deputy Treasury Secretary Stuart Eizenstat, and a wide variety of other pundits and business leaders. Much of the schmoozing focused on the group's logistical plight, but thanks to Blackberry updates, there was considerable discussion of the Bush State of the Union and disbelief (apparently widely held among the several passengers discussing it) that he could hold so tightly to his views on Iraq in the face of such opposition and evidence that his approach is failing.

In short, the Davos crowd is always the Davos crowd whether in Davos or not. My next report will be from the Alps ... with some luck and intervention from those higher powers who are undoubtedly toying with us all to remind us that it is hubris to think that Davos is somehow the most powerful gathering on earth. There are, after all, Carlyle Group board meetings, CAA Agent meetings in Hollywood, and those intimate dinners between Bill and Hillary.